Rutgers likes to call itself the birthplace of college football.
That designation comes from a match-up in 1869 between Rutgers and the College of New Jersey, which later was renamed Princeton University.
The genesis of the game was a group of Rutgers athletes sending a letter to the College of New Jersey challenging its football team to a game.
They called it football, but the game the two schools played that day has almost no resemblance to football as it is played today.
One reason for that is there was no rule book. Teams agreed on the rules before the competition began.
In the first game, teams scored by getting a round ball into a goal. The ball was advanced mainly by kicking it. It could not be advanced by carrying it and the forward pass wouldn’t become part of football until several decades later.
Both teams put 25 players on the field. The Rutgers student newspaper described it as “headlong running, wild shouting and frantic kicking.” One current day writer said it was like violent soccer.
Rutgers walked away with a 6-4 victory. And the rest is history, as they say, though it might have been embellished a bit over the decades.
Rutgers hasn’t made a lot of football history since that first step. Playing in the Big Ten since 2014 has been especially tough for the Scarlet Knights, who have been consistently overmatched.
Rutgers is 14-59 in Big Ten games and there are seven Big Ten teams it has not beaten since joining the conference (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota).
No. 3 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is a 40-point favorite over Rutgers (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) when the Scarlet Knights come to Ohio Stadium for a 3:30 p.m game .
OSU has scored 49 points or more all eight times it has played Rutgers. Last year, Ohio State won 52-13.
On paper, game appears to have the potential to be just as one sided and just as high scoring.
Ohio State ranks No. 2 nationally in total offense at 558.8 yards a game. Rutgers is No. 98 at 367.2 yards a game.
Ohio State is No. 3 nationally in scoring at 48.8 points a game and Rutgers is No. 84 at 28.5 points a game.
The defensive rankings are much closer. Rutgers is No. 9 nationally in total defense and Ohio State is No. 18. And the Buckeyes are No. 21 in scoring defense and Rutgers is No. 25.
But those rankings are a bit of an illusion. Given the choice between OSU’s defensive unit and Rutgers’ defensive players, probably every coach in the country except Rutgers’ Greg Schiano would say they’d take Ohio State’s talent.
Rutgers might be part of football history. But it’s not going to do anything historic against Ohio State this year.
The prediction: Ohio State 49, Rutgers 10.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.